Not only are many coming up with their own ideas but, when it comes to the interior, they are also throwing the rule book out the window.
Externally, the all-electric BYD Atto 3 holds fast to the established lexicon of automotive design. However, inside, there are screens that spin through 90 degrees, door pockets that use strings instead of plastic to keep everything in (which are tight enough to be strummed like a bass guitar) and huge cylindrical air vents with boldly coloured spindles that pivot like mini rudders.
Swoopy shapes, along with a multitude of textures and surfaces in the door and dash trim, dominate the fascia. The fact the dashboard has a conventionally rectangular but entirely practical glovebox almost feels disappointing.
From the vast central infotainment screen, I can swivel between vertical to horizontal at the press of a button on the steering wheel.
The term “gear lever” is apt for this car, as it eschews buttons and knobs for a properly substantive handle I pull back to engage drive. Plus, a hint of bling in the diamond-like crystal starter button.
When I open the rear doors, it takes a few moments before I can actually get in, as I'm distracted by the door release lever that glides along the outer circumference of the built-in rear speakers. It’s a delightful break from the norm and there is still ample space in the rear, comfortable seats, centre armrest cupholders and, of course, those disc-like air vents.
Talking of orchestral manoeuvres in the door, there are those guitar strings to play here, too.
The Atto 3 also has a spacious boot with a rubberised floor mat to keep the underlying storage area clean. The false floor reveals additional space for storing charging cables and a tyre repair kit.
The cabin’s floor deserves a mention, too. As with most electric cars, the batteries are held within, but they are more densely packed here thanks to new BYD Blade technology, which lines up cells to give more efficiency and, hence, more range.
The Atto 3 offers up to 418km if equipped with a 60kW lithium-ion phosphate battery. The drive unit provides 150kW or 201bhp of power, which can propel this family crossover SUV from a standstill to 100kph in a fairly respectable 7.3 seconds, to a maximum speed of 160kph. Talking of seconds, the name Atto is derived from attosecond, one quintillionth of a second, which is the smallest measurable unit of time and is meant to suggest dynamism.
While my test route is insufficient to establish the verity of the claimed range, it barely depletes despite frequent bouts of the accelerator pedal being pinned to the floor. Flicking between the drive modes appears to make no difference, either. Usually in electric cars, you lose up to 10km if you switch from normal to sports mode.
The performance on the Atto 3 is appropriately restrained. This is not your typical, deploy full power and hold on for dear life EV. It accelerates and brakes about as well as the best conventional crossover, potentially conserving range by not resorting to the EV party trick of always deploying full torque.
There’s some contradiction here: futuristic interior, silent propulsion, but standard to drive. It doesn’t even feature the one-pedal system so beloved by EV makers, at least not to any prominence.
There is a mild vibration from the brake pedal while slowing, however, which might be indicative of a regen system at work, recovering energy and recharging those neatly stacked battery cells.
It’s serene save for some roaring from the road beneath, while the body control is remarkably composed. The ride is acceptably supple. With good visibility out the front and protruding fenders making it easy to place in corners, I find there's reasonable grip and minimal understeer.
Rear visibility is a little tight, but there are cameras on hand to help me. And, once safely parked, I celebrate with a ditty on the door guitar.
This is a remarkably solid entry to the EV SUV market.